Posts in May

The Business Case for Hiring Developmentally Disabled Workers

May 27th, 2014   •   no comments   

Kari Warberg Block Founder and CEO, Earth-Kind

The Business Case for Hiring Developmentally Disabled Workers

A decade ago, we were in the midst of a painful labor shortage at our plant. Our company, earthkind, was growing, and I was having great difficulty recruiting workers to fill the jobs. Then, in a fateful discussion I’ll never forget, one of my employees raised the question of whether I had considered employing developmentally disabled workers to take on key roles in the production process.

My philosophy as employer is to see myself as a “farmer-in-charge.” By this, I mean that I consider myself the leader of a collaborative team who through our work together, and an unshakeable commitment to deliver on our brand promise, create an ecosystem conducive for ever-green growth across all areas: people, products, process, and culture.

As I began to research the role that a productive work life can play in the lives of developmentally disabled workers, I became more certain that this decision was right for my company. I was especially invested because I myself grew up in special education classes, diagnosed with a learning disorder and discouraged by some educators as to whether I would ever have the chance to play a productive role as a worker.

However, I think I only vaguely grasped the full range of benefits that employing developmentally disabled workers would bring to earthkind. As soon as I began incorporating these workers into our plant’s ecosystem, though, those benefits quickly came to light.

Now, after 10 years of having these vital employees as part of our team, I can’t imagine running my company differently. Sure, creating jobs and connecting with the community are rewarding aspects of building any business, but I have found the rewards have multiplied infinitely when working with developmentally disabled workers for whom this job has made a major impact on their lives and who, in return, have had a major impact on my business and me personally through their skilled performance in our manufacturing process. That is why these workers now comprise 30 percent of our workforce.

Recently, I had a chance to tour another facility — Tamarlane Industries in Beaver Dam, Kentucky — that employs physically and developmentally disabled employees as its complete workforce. This was my first chance seeing another manufacturing facility that incorporates such workers in the production process. Tamarlane assists in the production process for companies in a range of industries — from automotive to furniture to the housing market. As I toured the plant with manager Richard Goodall, we began sharing stories about the inspiring work we’ve seen from our employees. And, in that discussion, four key attributes of what these employees bring to the labor force arose: read more

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National Small Business Week Event

May 19th, 2014   •   no comments   

Last week I had the privilege of attending the SBA’s Small Business Week event held in Boston.

Seth Goodall, the Regional Administrator of the Boston’s SBA kicked off the event and was the MC throughout the day.

 The national Anthem was sung by 8 year old Bella Dante, what a voice she had. The next presenter was Annmarie Levins, Associate General Counsel for Microsoft. Next up was a powerhouse speaker Maria Conteras-Sweet who was recently appointed on April 7, 2014 as the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. 

She spoke about what the organization was doing to support small businesses since they are an instrumental force in job creation. She stated their mission called the 3 C’s and 1 D to support small business,

  • Contracting
  • Counseling
  • Capitol
  • Disaster Assistance

 Senator Ed Markey was not in attendance so we were presented with a video clip of his presentation.

 The keynote speaker was Gail Goodman CEO of Constant Contact, and is considered a small business expert and visionary. The topic of her speech was Lessons from a Successful Entrepreneur. There was a panel of experts High-tech / Innovative Businesses and several breakout sessions in the afternoon followed by a Business Matchmaking session.

 A great event and wonderful networking opportunity.  Happy 50th birthday SCORE!

 The SCORE Association “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000+ volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories.

 SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.

These services are offered at no fee, as a community service.

 For more info about this event or SCORE please email



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Veterans Employment Council Discusses Strategy to Increase Employment and Retention of Veterans in Federal Government

May 2nd, 2014   •   2 comments   


New Benchmark for Veteran Hiring Among Federal Agencies Adopted

Washington, DC – Today, the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, Co-Chaired by Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, and Vice-Chaired by U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director, Katherine Archuleta,  met to discuss the progress made in implementing Executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. Council discussion focused on increasing the employment and retention of veterans in the Federal government and the adoption of new benchmarks to track best practices and efforts by Federal agencies.

“President Obama created the Veterans Employment Initiative to ensure that we honor our sacred obligation to our Nation’s veterans,” said OPM Director and Council Vice-Chair Katherine Archuleta. “As the Federal government we must not only do all we can do help employ veterans when they return home, we must also serve as a model employer that acknowledges their talents, wisdom and energy. We are committed to creating an innovative recruitment and retention program that will be emulated in the public and private sectors. I am excited and honored to be taking on the role of Vice-Chair of this important Council and I am confident that, together, we will all do the work needed to achieve the objectives of this Council.”

It has been more than four years since President Obama established the Veterans Employment Initiative and, in that time, the Executive Branch of Government hired the highest percentage of military veterans since 1974. The percentage of veteran new hires increased in FY 2013 – of the 162,839 new employees hired in FY 2013, 50,502 were veterans, equaling 31 percent of total new hires.

Pointing directly to this uptick in numbers was the strategic direction of the first Government-wide Veterans Recruitment and Employment Strategic Plan covering the period of Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 through FY 2012. During the meeting, the Council approved a new Government-wide Veterans Recruitment and Employment Strategic Plan for FY 2014 through FY 2017, which continues to build upon the foundation established by the first Plan. In addition to advancing actions to improve employment opportunities for veterans, this Plan introduces an emphasis on the retention of veterans and focuses on the reintegration of our Federal colleagues who are deployable Reservists or National Guardsmen. The new Plan can be viewed on the Feds Hire Vets website.

Secretary of Labor and Council Co-chair Thomas E. Perez said, “I’m a firm believer that the best way to honor our veterans is to help them find jobs when they separate from the military services which is the service the department provides through our 2,500 American Job Centers. On April 23, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of the Veterans Employment Center, ( the first interagency, web-based tool to bring together a wealth of public and private job opportunities and career and training resources, all in one place.  We have much more to do. Veterans make our workforce and our government more productive and our economy more competitive. Veterans are ready to work and the government needs exactly what veterans have to offer.”

At today’s meeting, Council members adopted a new benchmark for veteran hiring among Federal agencies; The Veteran Employment Performance Model for FY 2015 through FY 2017. The initial Model, adopted by the Council in FY 2010, has been the mechanism used to stimulate veteran new hires at the agency level in support of the Veterans Employment Initiative. This new model establishes four elements that will allow for clear performance reviews by grouping agencies by size and creating a rating scheme based on interagency comparison to measure veteran employment performance.

“At VA, we know that Veterans make exceptional employees,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “Veterans make up one third of our workforce – the courage, determination, initiative, perseverance, and leadership they demonstrated in uniform continue to define their performance today. With President Obama’s leadership, we will continue to connect Veterans with high-quality career opportunities in both the public and private sectors.”

The goal of the President’s Veterans Employment Initiative is to help federal agencies identify qualified veterans, clarify the hiring process for veterans seeking employment with the Federal government, and help them adjust to the civilian work environment once they are hired. The President’s Council on Veterans Employment is made up of 24 cabinet level and other independent agencies. The Council is Co-chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, and Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki. The Vice-Chairman is OPM Director Katherine Archuleta.

For additional information please visit Feds Hire Vets.

For more information on OFCCP Compliance visit

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